Don’t you love it when the penny drops? When something finally clicks into place like a missing piece of the puzzle. Well, I had another one of those moments recently. Without me really noticing, something had obviously been ticking away quietly inside my brain and then at that precise moment, it clicked into place and became a conscious thought – one of life’s wonderful ‘aha’ moments. And finally I understood at a deeper level the many reasons why slowing down your metabolism can make chemo easier.

It all has to do with understanding how we heal. Understanding the importance of slowing down, breathing deeply and practising what Dr Herbert Benson calls the relaxation response. Our bodies have two modes if you like – one is fast – this is the stress mode and it helps to get us out of danger – and one is slower – this is the rest and digest mode where we do our healing. But in this day and age with all the time demands, and our fears and worries, it can be difficult to slow down, can’t it. Our bodies and minds are running continuously full steam ahead.

And it makes sense, doesn’t it. If we do our chemo while our bodies are running full pelt, the normal healthy cells are working much harder and faster and take up more of the chemo. But if we can slow things down as the research shows, our healthy cells will simply not absorb the same quantity of chemo. And to my way of thinking surely this would leave more chemo for the cancer cells to suck up. Seems like a good idea, doesn’t it. And there was something else I realised in that moment… that when our bodies are in rest and digest, our organs are working beautifully and it is these very organs we rely on to process the chemo toxins out of our body. Because, when we’re stressed many of our organs shut down. Not something we really want to happen when we’re relying on them to detoxify our bodies, is it? So by taking a leaf out of the tortoise’s book, it seems we could possibly get a bigger hit in exactly the right spot, and then get the chemo out quicker. I’d love to see some research done on this.

And there’s quite a few ways to slow things down, aren’t there. I’ve found research to show fasting before chemo brings your metabolism down which reduces side-effects. I checked this out when I was having chemo and my beautiful oncologist again was so supportive. Or having chemo when your body is at rest in line with your circadian rhythms has been successful too. Practising relaxation, and diaphragmatic breathing does wonders to retrain the way our bodies are working. And laughing, that full on belly laughing until your sides ache laugher, is pure magic in helping us switch over into healing mode.

I wonder, have you ever considered what the fear of chemo does to your metabolism? Your heart races, your palms sweat, your breathing becomes shallow. Because fear increases our metabolism, doesn’t it. And it’s not something we need more of. Many people don’t realise that the fear of chemo can actually exacerbate the very side-effects we seek so desperately to avoid…

The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself
– Franklin D Roosevelt